Please join us for a talk with Hikmet Karčić, genocide scholar and editor of The Muslim Resolutions: Bosniak Responses to World War II Atrocities in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Center for Islam in the Contemporary World, June 2021). Moderated by Tanya Domi (SIPA/Harriman Institute) with Laura B. Cohen (Kupferberg Holocaust Center) as discussant.
On April 6, 1941, the Axis powers attacked Yugoslavia. Within days, the Yugoslav army had surrendered, and Yugoslavia was officially under occupation. Serbia was ruled by a puppet government under German occupation. In Croatia, the Ustashas had established a puppet state called “The Independent State of Croatia” (Nezavisna Drzava Hrvatska or NDH), led by Ante Pavelic. In the NDH, the Ustashas introduced Nazi-style laws against Serbs, Jews, and Roma and established concentration camps, where they incarcerated and murdered members of those peoples. Bosniaks (then referred to as Muslims) found themselves between a rock and a hard place. Without proper political representation or institutions, they were split as a nation on all sides. Some joined the Independent State of Croatia, others sided with the Serb royalists (chetniks), and yet others made nice with Nazi Germany, hoping for greater autonomy for Bosnia in return. While the Ustasha regime did not target Bosniaks en masse, many members of their elites disagreed with the new regime’s policies. The persecution of Serbs, Jews, and Roma provoked the public condemnation of these crimes. Under-represented, unprotected, and generally labeled enemies or collaborators, the Bosniak elites were pragmatic in their condemnation of the regime’s policies: using it as an opportunity for seeking Bosnia’s autonomy, hoping in this way to improve the country’s position and the security of their people. They did so through the resolutions included in this book, which were initiated and signed by members of the Bosniak establishment, which is to say of the clergy and the judicial and economic elites, who sought to distance themselves from the Ustasha regime. In fact, most of the people to actually sign these resolutions were members of El-Hidaje, the Association of Muslim Clergy. The resolutions played a large role, not only during the war but in the post-war era too, as the struggle for Muslim identity and nationhood got underway. They are one of the few cases in the region, perhaps the only, of such atrocities being condemned and criticized by the elite of a “people without a state.”
Hikmet Karčić is a genocide scholar based in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. He is a Researcher at the Institute for Islamic Tradition of Bosniaks (IITB) in Sarajevo and a Senior Fellow with the Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy in Washington DC. He was the 2017 Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation-Keene State College Global Fellow. He is the author of the forthcoming book Torture, Humiliate, Kill: Inside the Bosnian Serb Camp System (University of Michigan Press, 2022).
Laura B. Cohen, Ph.D., is the Executive Director of the Harriet and Kenneth Kupferberg Holocaust Center (KHC) at Queensborough Community College at the City University of New York. Dr. Cohen received her doctorate from Rutgers University’s Division of Global Affairs where she researched the intersection of transitional justice and contested narratives at the Srebrenica Genocide Memorial in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Her analysis builds upon her extensive fieldwork in the Balkans and at atrocity site memorials in Germany, Poland, Cambodia, and Rwanda. Her chapter about the Srebrenica Genocide Memorial was published in the edited volume, Understanding Atrocities: Remembering, Representing and Teaching Genocide (University of Calgary Press, 2017) and she has lectured widely about memorialization, transitional justice, and genocide education. Dr. Cohen also holds an M.S. from New York University’s Center of Global Affairs and an M.A. in Media Studies from The New School.